Hope remains for Winter Prison

At a time when Sherbrooke is preparing to carry out the architectural and heritage inventory of its buildings, the winter prison revitalization project is awaiting a response from the provincial government. The Director General of the Sherbrooke Historical Society, Michel Harnois, does not lose hope of seeing his vision come true.

In our edition last Monday, Councilor Chantal L’Esperance felt that it is necessary to safeguard the old prison since it marked the history. Recall that Mr. Harnois has begun to seek funding for a project of interpretive trail, escape games and evenings Murder and mystery. A market study revealed a potential market of 45,000 visitors per year. An online petition to gather support for the project had raised at least 1500 signatures.

“The file is in the hands of the Minister of Culture [Luc Fortin] and his department for about a year. We have nothing concrete yet. It is being considered for potential grants. From the moment a first player says it’s interesting, it will be easier to convince others, “says Michel Harnois.

“The Ministry has an attentive ear. It’s played elsewhere than on our plate. Our project is solid, profitable, and I have confidence. Economic conditions make it difficult to make decisions at this time. ”

Michel Harnois recounts that the Society for the Safeguarding of the Old Prison had asked the Ministry, in 1992, for the classification of the prison as a patrimonial edifice. “They only rank if there is a new vocation that allows the project to be profitable. There has not been any discussion since 1992 because there was no project. For the moment, I do not know the content of the discussions, but I just know that the project was received positively. ”

Mobilizing the environment

In the office of the Minister of Culture, the hon. Member for Sherbrooke, Luc Fortin, it is confirmed that a file has been filed with the regional directorate and that we are currently listening to requests from the sector. To classify the building, it would require a mobilization of the community, the municipality, the citizens, the History Society and the Ministry.

Michel Harnois understands the reluctance of the milieu.

“It is probably linked to a lack of awareness of recreational potential. This type of site has a huge attraction power. In Kingston, the prison is open from May to September and welcomes 50,000 people a year. In Trois-Rivières, it is open longer, but also receives about 50,000 people each year. There are downtown traders who are willing to develop partnerships with us … ”

He remains convinced that the government of Quebec must be the first player to convince. Why not the City of Sherbrooke, where Destination Sherbrooke had concluded in 2015 that the forecast of goodwill and economic spin-offs did not justify the size of the investments required, at least $ 6 million?

“We do not own the prison, so first we need to know if the site deserves special attention from the government. The City would not be able to absorb this amount on its own, “argues Michel Harnois.

At Destination Sherbrooke, Amelie Boissonneau, Communications Coordinator, indicated that the organization remains ready to “highlight promising and realistic projects that will enable Sherbrooke to shine” and that it is open to hearing new elements about the project or The renovation of the building.

Finally, pending a response, the Historical Society intends to hire a student to carry out research in the archives in order to prepare the implementation of the project when the time comes. “When I started working on it, I knew it would be a marathon,” illustrates Michel Harnois.

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